Voice for Democracy
Newsletter of the Northern California Citizens for Proportional Representation
July- August 1999
Election system studies in California and Illinois
Dateline MAY 16, 1999
Today, in separate but almost simultaneous and similar decisions, The League of Women Voters (LWV) in both California and Illinois voted to study election systems. The “study” process is the first step towards reaching a consensus position for this venerable organization and will involve dozens of chapters and thousands of people in these two key states.
The LWV California voted to study election systems, and the LWV Illinois voted to study the effect of the Cutback Amendment (which abolished cumulative voting in Illinois).
Both studies are "pending funding". The Center for Voting and Democracy (CVD) promised LWV California seed money, to pay for grant writing so the rest of the money could be raised. (A two-year study in California costs between $10K and $40K.) Presumably they'll help LWV Illinois raise money as well.
Congratulations to all the hard work by the Illinois and California Leaguers!
--Steve Chessin, Member, LWV Los Altos - Mountain View Area (CA) (and Incoming Co-President NCCPR)
And NOW for something completely different ...
(Well actually quite similar, since it is about raising PR to a visible level as an issue).
Outgoing Co-President Barbara Blong reports: “Well, I just returned from the NOW National Conference in LA. Our PR resolution was supported in the issues hearing and was passed out to be discussed and debated in the plenary on Sunday - along with 26 other resolutions. PR and about 5 other resolutions didn't make it to the floor for lack of time. This resolution now goes before the national board in DC in September. Helen G., the CA NOW president, just emailed me that she needs a packet of materials for each of the 40 members to use in our lobbying effort. That's our next step.”
AGM results - Choice Voting works!
At our Annual General Meeting on May 22nd. 1999, we elected a new Board, using Choice Voting (of course). The winners were: Steve Chessin, Pete Martineau, Richard Winger, Barbara Blong, Paula Lee, Dave Kadlecek, Betty Traynor, Marda Stothers, Joan Strasser.
The Board consists of members of the Democrat, Green, Libertarian, and Peace & Freedom parties (and a "decline to state"). The elected Board may appoint one additional member from each of the Republican, American Independent, Reform, and Natural Law parties. The Board at a meeting after the AGM elected Steve Chessin and Marda Stothers as co-Presidents. Other officers will be elected at the next Board meeting to be held on July 17th.
We had a discussion of IRV (it was supposed to be a debate, but due to health issues Wilma Rule was unable to attend, so Barbara Blong read a statement that Wilma had faxed). We learned that Amarillo, Texas, was the latest city to adopt Cumulative Voting, joining many other cities, including Peoria, Illinois and we did some planning for the retreat in June.
First retreat a great advance!
At a YMCA facility in the Marin headlands on June 12, 18 NCCPR-ers spent from about 9am to 5pm discussing the heart and soul of the organization. Most of the morning was spent on Brainstorming strategies in which many new possibilities were explored (five pages worth actually!).
The Leadership session showed that between us we have all the skills needed for a successful organization. We need to share them and play to our individual strengths and grow - both individually and collectively.
The Organization session recommended re-ordering the Vice President positions, providing new titles in some cases and building on the concept of co-leadership. Additionally each area developed teams as people expressed their personal interests from the Brainstorming session earlier. The new Vice-presidents will be ratified at the July 17 Board meeting. (See TEAMWORK article below). Several specific issues were also discussed and all agreed it was a great success and should be evaluated after 6 months and become at least an annual event.
South Bay Chapter
from Jim Stauffer
The South Bay Chapter is meeting on Saturday, July 31st at 10am. We'll meet at the home of Steve Chessin.
RSVP to Jim Stauffer, (408) 432-9148, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
East Bay Chapter News
from David Greene
The East Bay chapter is working in the Oakland Fair Elections Project coalition. The coalition is organized by ACORN, and includes Common Cause, CVD, and the League of Women Voters among others. This coalition just introduced a proposed ordinance change to Oakland's City Council to initiate partial public financing and lowered spending limits to certain city races. Final council approval of this may come as early as September, after which we will begin efforts on developing PR or IRV amendments to the city charter, which will have to be put on the ballot for citizen approval. We hope the connections with the other coalition partners will strengthen the movement!
In other developments, John Reynolds from our chapter will be leading a League of Women Voters chapter study of IRV's potential use in Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville city elections (the LWV chapter covers these cities). Jim Lindsay, Joan Strasser, and other chapter members who are also LWV members will participate in this year-long effort.
We continue our effort to develop a high school PR/IRV curriculum package that could be used as a plug-in to government courses: we're currently looking for examples of curricula from countries where PR is currently used.
We also continue to speak to groups and table at local events as outreach (it was such a talk to the LWV chapter that resulted in the study!). Chapter meetings are about every 6 weeks.
Contact David Greene (510-841-6761)
San Francisco Chapter
from Wayne Shepherd
Here's what's happening in San Francisco: It's summer, time for street fairs. We're spending the summer hanging out at the tables distributing flyers for IRV. We're not meeting again until September. We'll be having an IRV subgroup meeting on September 15 at 7 P.M. at 321 Bartlett, and a chapter membership meeting soon after (date and location to be announced).
And that's about it. With summer and everyone's bizarre summer schedules, we figured it was best to stop meeting and do stuff for a while.
Contact Wayne Shepherd (415-681-2580)
North Bay News
For information on upcoming events Contact Ray Yahr (707-833-6996)
TeamWORK, TEAMwork, Teamwork
As mentioned in the article on the retreat, each VP area has a team of people willing and able to make a contribution in that area -many of the team activities are overlapping, so there will be a need for teams to work together as teams. At first this teamwork will seem like just plain WORK. Then as we get to know our strengths, the coordinators will be placing the emphasis on the TEAM. Ideally both the team and the work will glide together as we share the learning and the growing!
Which team(s) do you want to help?
Legislation - the Co VPs are based in Sacramento. Give either one a call! Pete Martineau(916 967-0300) or Paula Lee(530 644-8760)
Local Chapters - Co VPs - Nat Lerner (831-442-1238) and ???? His team members are the local chapter coordinators and their deputies. Do you want to give Nat a hand as a CO-VP or form a local chapter in your area?
Membership - Co VPs - Jim Lindsay(510 527-8075) and ???? This key area will call on local chapters for support, but Jim could certainly do with some more assistance with more team members and a CO VP. Current team members: Steve Willett, Pete Martineau, Caleb Kleppner.
Education/Information - Co VPs - Betty Traynor (415 558-8133) and Joan Strasser. Can you help create/design educational/informational materials? Team members: Steve Willett (web site), Nat Lerner (newsletter).
Outreach - Co VPs - Barbara Blong (415-826-2322) and ???? Can you help Barbara take the message out? Team members: Gwen Craig, Ruth Picone, Bill Gramm-Reefer, Court Owen.
Finance - Co VPs - Dave Kadleck(510 763-3515) and ???? Good with numbers, money, fund-raising? Give Dave a hand! Retiring Finance VP: Marda Stothers
Electoral choices around the world
In the three months since the last newsletter, electoral systems and the effect that PR can have on them have been big news on at least SIX occasions.
Scotland and Wales : In May, the new Welsh Assembly and the first Scottish Parliament since 1707 were both elected using a variant of the Mixed Member Proportional system first used in Germany and more recently in New Zealand. In both elections, most parties won seats roughly in proportion to the votes cast for them. Due to insufficient list seats, the Labour Party gained more than its fair share of seats but still had to find a coalition partner.
British European Parliament elections : In June, Britain held its elections for the European Parliament using a PR system in England for the very first time. The system selected was closed party list in regions. Despite a low-turnout (due to reasons other than PR), representation was fuller than previously.
South Africa : In June South Africa held its second post-apartheid general election using a pure party list PR. Though the ANC won an overwhelming majority of seats they just failed to get the two-thirds needed to make constitutional changes. They will need the support of another party to make constitutional changes.
Lesotho : This completely landlocked nation is currently debating between the PR of its bigger neighbor South Africa and the traditional Westminster electoral system as it works towards a civilian government.
Indonesia : The first free* elections since the fall of Suharto has seen a return to Party List PR in regions. * Ballot access as good or better than in most US states.
Japan : Government and opposition parties are discussing changes to the electoral system that may either increase or decrease the proportional element of their lower House.
an article by Bill Westmiller
[While NCCPR takes no position on methods of redistricting, as we believe that no method of drawing district lines is superior to proportional representation, we thought our members might find the following article interesting.]
If California were a dictatorship, would Proportional Representation have a better chance of adoption? Probably not.
Would eliminating gerrymandering make the case for PR less attractive? It shouldn't. Any step toward more fair representation is a step in the right direction.
Banning gerrymandering is exactly what the Fair Vote 2K Initiative would accomplish. Slated for filing in September, the proposal discards any legislative, judicial or administrative discretion and automates the entire districting process. It would replace millions of dollars of special pleadings and power with a simple computer
Starting in the Northwest corner of the state, the process would simply accumulate the closest Census tracts until the population average for a particular seat was met. Voila! Automatic districts for every Congressional, State Senate, and Assembly seat. Not only does the program district the entire state within hours, it can be run on any personal computer. As a bonus, it creates the most compact districts possible.
In case the intent is not clear, the draft initiative forbids any consideration of registration, voting history, race, ethnicity or national origin. It also requires that no district vary in size from others by more than one percent and dictates the selection of the result that has the smallest variation in population (just in case a wizard programmer figures out how to get more than one result).
This novel approach complies with every Supreme Court ruling for the districting process, but also forbids the most common objective of districting: safe political seats. The result strikes at the heart of incumbent politicians and powerful entrenched interests, no matter what their partisan inclinations. While being absolutely fair and objective, it vastly improves the prospects for minority parties and increases the chances of contested races for every seat.
Would Fair Vote 2K impede the cause of Proportional Representation by eliminating the worst abuses? Or, would it make such proposals more prominent and attractive as the next step in electoral reform? Decide for yourself.
Visit the Fair Vote 2K website for complete details: http://www.westmiller.com/init
From the Editor ...
Despite a month’s delay, this newsletter is going from a quarterly to a bi-monthly publication to keep you more informed as the pace of electoral reform increases. Is this the right mix of local /national /international news? What is this newsletter missing?
Of course, feedback and articles are always welcome. Drop me a line or an e-mail. THE EDITOR
Voice for Democracy is published by Northern Californians for Proportional Representation.
Our web site at http://fairvotencal.org has more up-to-date information. Please submit articles/letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, Voice for Democracy, 68 Penzance Street, Salinas, CA. 93906 or e-mail to NL0916@sprynet.com.
Voice for Democracy
Northern California CPR
P.O. Box 128
Sacramento, California 95812